Frank Hammad ran a business that carried him and his family for decades but now, he says, it’s time to let go. Hammad has owned and operated Village Market at 662 Lincoln Avenue for 41 years.
The market is closing because developers approached Hammad and, as he said, “They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
The store will be demolished to make way for a new development consisting of a four-story mixed-use building with 35 affordable housing units, 5,561 square feet of commercial space, and 83 subterranean parking spaces.
The project by Heritage Housing has been submitted for the Preliminary Consultation phase of the City’s project approval process and will go through the Design Commission Tuesday, Aug. 28, at its regular meeting.
Hammad has a long history of hard work. He came to the United States from Israel when he was young and worked two grueling jobs to make ends meet before buying the store.
“I came to this country 55 years ago. I came from Israel with $50, no place to go, no place to live and no car, no nothing,” he said. “I started working in two factories in Chicago. I got drafted during the Vietnam War. But because it was at the end I didn’t go to Vietnam. I started working in a factory in Chicago for $85 a week and going to another factory and working another eight hours. And I stuck with it. ”
He made his way to Pasadena and bought the store. He said he kept investing.
“Then I kept buying properties around me and I bought the whole corner.”
The well-known proprietor of Village Market has been through the ups and downs, but he is grateful for it all and especially the trademark secret recipes that have kept him in business.
“The store helped me raise my family and it provided for us,” he said. “The meats were really always the specialty. We have a good recipe for home-made sausage.”
He said the bottom line was the new developers needed the property and he was not desperate to sell so he got a “nice price.” Still, it was not an easy decision for Hammad, a beloved local friend to many as well as community member, to sell because of the sentimental and emotional value Village Market has brought.
“I’ve been there for about 41 years,” he said. “I’m 70 years old and I cried my eyes out a few days ago when I closed the deal. The money is one thing, but I’ve been going into the store at 7:30 in the morning every day until eight o’clock at night, seven days a week.”
“I bought this store — it was the first grocery store in Pasadena in 1927,” he said. “But I’m going to retire next year — you know, how long can I work? I’m over 70 and I would never get this price again. ”
Hammad has some other projects in the works already.
“I’ve got projects going and that’s it,” he said. “What else can I tell you?”
“Before, in the area, there was no place to buy meat,” he said. “However, over the past few years, the economy changed and people cannot afford to say, get my Porter Houses. So the business changed. We were well-known for the home-made sausage. We were making the sausage. It’s a home-made sausage recipe from a hundred years ago, from the original owner. ”
“I have five children, including a daughter, and about 20 grandkids,” he said. “My plans are to go and spend some time with them and travel.”
What is the secret to success for the business owner today?
“You have to be a responsible person,” he said. “You have to care about your kids and your family. I never took a day sick. Everybody gets sick. I had the flu, I even got shot in there one time.
“It’s not just making the money, take care of your money and invest your money and stay away from alcohol,” he said. “I’m not a doctor. I’m not a lawyer. I am a regular person so I have to substitute with hard work.
“At one point. I had four kids at one time in private school and that cost about $40,000,” he said. “You have to be persistent and you have to be responsible. There are so many times I could have said, ‘I’m sick. I don’t want to go to work.’ I can’t do this.”
He said it has been a good run that did not last long in his mind.
“Believe me, those 40 years went by so fast,” he said. “I think I’m still 30 years old!”